Trigger warning: If you are a fan of Kobe Bryant, Terry Crews, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Nelly, or defending black men in general, maybe sit this one out. I love my “good cop” reputation on Beyond Black and White, and I tried to be balanced here, but this article might hurt your feelings. If you are one of those people who reads only the title, the caption, or the first few paragraphs and wants to rip me a new one, kindly refrain from calling yourself a “free thinker” or a “critical thinker” in the comments section. You look silly.
I often see Christelyn’s name brought up in the internet streets over things she did not write, which is so bizarre to me. As grown ladies, each of us can stand account for the words we put online. Just as many other sites publish content from a variety of writers, Beyond Black and White is becoming a critical hub for different empowered black female voices. Just as on those sites, the publishers are not responsible for, nor endorses, every piece of content or opinion published on the site. If you do not like something, address the writer. Just in case you missed it, Christelyn did not write this article. The author’s name is at the top of the article. Feel free to leave your critiques in the comments, and I will be sure to respond. (You can also find me directly on Twitter @TamarahBryan. If you are coming with the smoke, just know that I am not always so nice over there.)
Despite my thoughts of divestment in this article, I would like to express my sincerest condolences to the Bryant family in their time of grief. I cannot imagine the pain and heartache you are going through. While I was more ambivalent about Kobe, I definitely could appreciate his work ethic and his overall contribution to the culture. No one should have to lose their family this way. For me personally, it can be jarring seeing a family name so similar to your own mentioning death everywhere you go, but I definitely understand what he meant to people, and why this is necessary. Lastly, I found the way I heard the news so eerie. Ironically enough, my father and I both had separate work to attend to in Vancouver. We took the same flight out of Toronto. When we landed, I got a flood of messages from family, friends and coworkers telling me that Kobe died with his daughter in a helicopter crash. Times like these make you really treasure those close to you. That said, following many conversations in the Facebook comments section, and reading Twitter exchanges, I want to add my thoughts.
I posted an article earlier this year on different types of hypergamy. As I write for the blog, I am learning so much from all of you. Recently, another writer shared about Kobe Bryant’s death on the blog, which started a flurry of comments. I must admit that I did not expect the conversation to turn that way, but it has given me a lot to think about, hence the title of the blog. A lot of you felt that blog post was policing black women’s behaviour and being hypocritical, as in other situations, the same grace would not be extended to us or even people in other communities.
I will start by saying that I have no dog in this fight. I personally hold to the opinion that sports are a form of escapism for the masses to avoid thinking about critical world issues. I also think that these activities are a way for disenfranchised men to trade their bodies, health and youth for a successful life. Other than the Olympics, a black woman dominating the sport or a playoff game, people mention sports to me, and my brain goes into a narcoleptic “Out of Office” mood and my eyes glaze over. I was aware of Kobe Bryant’s existence, as I used to have a friend who would mention sports stats with every waking breath, but it literally went in one ear and out the other. I can safely say that I have been inoculated to the hype that is the sports world.
Many people I follow on Twitter were very invested in sports, and got angry with people I retweeted who dared mention the blemishes on his legacy – namely the philandering and the alleged rape. I will say this, I do not like that people only bring up people’s misdeeds in death. We all had plenty of time to say something, including his accusers, particularly with this era of #MeToo. That said, I really side-eye people memorializing this man to the point where they refuse to allow critical dialogue of an imperfect man. At best, he was an excellent basketball player, hard worker, girl dad and family man. At worst, he was a philanderer and alleged rapist.
Both thoughts can be true at the same time. For example, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for The Cosby Show, although I have not seen it in quite some time. I also think Bill is a disgusting rapist who used that persona of “America’s dad” to take advantage of many innocent women. Why not apply this same logic with Kobe? Why can we not praise his contributions to the sports world while also noting his flaws? For those who say that he has or had not atoned for his past misdeeds, I will leave that judgment to him and his maker. That call is frankly above my pay grade.
Let us look at another point in the comments section. Quite a few people felt that we were policing black women’s speech and behaviour with that last article. I will not speak for Kristen, as she can respond to the comments as she sees fit. In general, we get the “respectability” and “policing” critique a lot. I personally believe that if we want to level up, there are certain behaviours that we may need to take up, or leave behind, depending on where we would like to go. I love the idea of having a standard to adhere to, as that gives me less to think about.
That said, our content on the blog is meant to be suggestive, not prescriptive. We offer our take, and welcome your agreement or rebuttals in a civil dialogue. From the little I have observed in upper echelons of society or polite circles, it is not polite to speak ill of the dead. If we want to hold ourselves to that standard, it makes sense to avoid negative comments about controversial figures. If not, have at it. (In all honesty, while I may be “above” making rude comments online, I am absolutely not above kee-keeing behind my screen when someone else decides to indulge in a good roast. I have to keep it all the way 100%. Feel free to send me content for chuckles.)
People mentioned George Bush Sr., or even the late John McCain. None of these men were above mockery from the masses when they passed away. Others mentioned Harvey Weinstein. Would we be as eager to quell any comments about him too? As many of you have rightly mentioned in the comments section, many black women have not been above public scorn either. Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Sandra Bland, and Korryn Gaines have all been victims of public mockery. Even the legendary Harriet Tubman herself has not been exempt. So what does this mean? Are we looking to enforce a standard for black men only? In my best Najja voice, “God forbid, oh.” I personally would love to see everyone be respectful of those who pass on. That said, many times, we cannot control anyone else but ourselves. That said, this discussion did bring another question to mind.
I do have to wonder though: just how divested are you? To me, divestment meant that we are to prioritize the interests of black women, connect with like-minded individuals, go where we are celebrated, not tolerated, etcetera. My thought was that we just pay black men dust, unless they are doing something to promote the collective. If we as black women are supposed to be prioritizing ourselves and others like us, what does that say when we constantly use opportunities to mock black men or speak ill of them? Take the screenshot below, for instance. I follow both of these ladies on social media and enjoy their content very much, so please, no dragging or trolling. This screenshot of their internet exchange was making the rounds on social media in early February, so I wanted to share it.
Basically, a Black man decided to start a thread for fellow black men doing skin care. My girls decided to roast him a new one. I personally disagreed with that method, and shared my thoughts with the ladies. Was the man in the photo attractive? Not to me, but that really was not the point of the thread, in my opinion. I could see that he is trying to do something to improve himself and his brothers. I was satisfied with the fact that he is not warming my bed at night, and eventually, if some black woman took him up, she would not have to deal with a man allergic to basic skincare.
(All links in this paragraph are not safe for work and are not for those with weak constitutions. Viewer discretion is advised.) Why did I decide not to troll this man and other participants? I remember the dark days of social media, when black women would be seeking advice for their men who refused to wash between their buttocks or wipe up after a number two because that was “gay.” I wish I was joking. (I am still traumatized by that “dick cheese” medical video Simone56 shared on her page once upon a time. Click the links for the article or video.) Even if some black men appear physically appealing and medically sound, there is always the possibility of falling victim to Blackistani circumstances, like children out of wedlock, colorism, abuse or contracting invisible diseases like HIV, either intentionally or unintentionally. Of course, I always have to state that I am not talking about all black men, and that you can find the same gutter behaviour in any group of people, but I have seen enough instances in my community that I would rather take my chances elsewhere.
That said, I would be a complete hypocrite if I did not acknowledge that black men treat black women the same way online. With over a decade on the internet, I have gotten very savvy with my personalized internet algorithm. I will be forever grateful for the personalization of the internet. Before those days, I remember the times when every video on YouTube or every other Tweet would be calling black women BT-1000s, whores of Babylon, bedwenches (my personal favourite), bastard baby-makers, worst mothers of society, welfare queens, and hair-hatted hooligans. Oh, and we cannot forget the mockery of every hairstyle, fashion choice and the body shaming, like announcing to the world that our genitalia that looks like disgusting roast beef. (No links, as I have traumatized you enough.)
Before anyone rebuts this to say that social media is not real life, just know that it has enough reach to inform and impact multitudes of people. It is a sample size that implies the opinions of the general collective. People across the world who may not have seen a black woman in real life could very well have access to the internet and social media. Yes, not all black men are like this, but the glaring silence and lack of affirmation from the majority of black men throughout the past decade, on and offline, is very telling. (If I mentioned some of the equally degenerate black male behaviour and conversation points I have seen and heard of offline, this article would be a novel.) I thought I would leave that line there for the black women warning against generalizations or highlighting that they know good black men or had good black male family members. (Note one: Most of us on the blog team had good black father, including me. Note two (separate thought): By the way, just because someone is good to you, does not mean they are good to everyone.) Even if someone outside of the community disrespected us, we were typically left to fend for ourselves. The most recent roasting I have seen online is in the screenshot below:
I also have to acknowledge that divestment is not a cookie cutter approach. It is easy to write an article and forget that perspectives can be nuanced. This isn’t a one size fits all concept. There is a light and a shadow side of divestment, with different tactics. Let us take a look at divestment, boil it down to its core meaning. According to Investopedia, divestment is, “The process of selling investments in order to maximize the value of the patent company.” In Black Women Empowerment and level up spaces, this term has been revised to our personal experiences. Black women are dropping ties with any negative aspects of the black community that do not serve us, also known as Blackistan, in an effort to either improve our personal circumstances or our well-being as a collective. This could include degrading music, toxic environments, problematic men, and more.
However, I ask again, just how divested are you? For me, I have to admit that I am not as divested as I think I am. I go to black hair salons. I do not pay much attention to acts of racism, police brutality and Black Lives Matter movements, for mental health reasons, but I still care about them a lot. I interact with many cool black men on Twitter, and I am constantly surprised with how many of them follow me, considering how much I share about this platform and swirling in general. My favourite comedians are black men. I still spend a lot of time with my immediate family. I cannot say that I spend a lot of time on black music, movies or other entertainment, but if it is uplifting, I might indulge.
Beyond simple interactions, I think that we in this community understand that there is a light and shadow side of divestment. When I consider those terms, I typically think of Christelyn Karazin and Kendall St. Charles, respectively. While they both have strategic self-development elements to their platforms, I feel that Christelyn has a more friendly approach while Kendall’s is more crafty. For instance, in an instance of wrongdoing and an apology, Christelyn would promote forgiveness and a level of reconciliation. On the other hand, Kendall would not extend that same forgiveness, instead choosing to apply the same rules and treatment that one group enacted towards her, back on them. I know that I sit more on the light side of the spectrum, but we have an audience that comes from all walks of life. I hope my words come across as observations, not criticism.
While our light-side sisters may prefer to forgive and forget the misdeeds of black men around us, our shadow-side sisters would not. In the case of Kobe Bryant, we see light-side women willing to mourn his death, claim atonement for his failings and agree that we should not speak ill of him in death. Why not just live our best lives, and let bygones be bygones? For our shadow-side sisters, there is a lack of fairness between how black women are treated in death vs black men. Why do we feel a need to protect black men and their feelings, when they clearly do not care about our own? In the case of the screenshots above, there are still two schools of thought. “Why not just pay them dust?” versus “Why can we not mock people who (in general) mock us?” I truly do not have an answer for this, as I wrestle with my thoughts on this issue often.
Looks like he deleted the tweet. Oh well.
The blog recently discussed the situation with Terry Crews, where he failed to support Gabrielle Union’s claims against America’s Got Talent, even as she was one of the many who supported him in his sexual assault claims. She gave an excellent critique there, so I will not belabour the point. It boggles my mind that people always gassed him up being so attractive (reading THIRST TWEETS!!! on Buzzfeed) and offering him so many opportunities, when he legit looks like Killer Croc from Gotham and is basically a one-trick pony on-screen. While the statement above was shocking, his Flint Michigan proverb really took the cake for me.
This one is gone from Twitter too. Thank God for people screenshotting tweets with the quickness.
Quick personal story: one time, I was in an elevator with a black male relative. Another black man got in the elevator. If my memory serves me correctly, I choose not to greet him. (That is not a huge sin in Toronto, as it is in The South. Perhaps I was listening to a good song, was not feeling up to being social or something.) When I tell you that man’s eyes were boring into my skull, I am not playing. It has been a long time since I have received such a heated stare, and it was honestly making me seriously uncomfortable. When the man left the elevator, I said to the person with me, “You know, the way that man was looking at me made me feel really uncomfortable. I do not know if he wanted to holler at me or was just annoyed that I did not say anything, but I really did not feel safe.” You want to know what his response was? “That is not my problem. I do not care if he was trying to get with you or what he said or did with you. That is your business. If he was trying to get at me, then that would be my problem.” I was speechless. I still am, when I think about that situation.
Why do black men in general, think that black women owe them eggs, but that we are not entitled to bacon or some other byproduct? As the ancient black proverb goes, “Where they do that at?” We always expected to offer undying fealty and devotion, with nothing in return. Remember that time with the rapper Nelly, after creating that disgusting music video Trip Drill, dared to get mad at black women for not lining up in their numbers to donate bone marrow for his sister dying of leukemia? That would have been back in 2004-2005. How can the same black men who focus on themselves and refuse to offer protection and support to black women, turn around and complain that we are not feminine enough and do not let them lead? Different plants frow where they are watered.
I could not imagine being so selfish, but I am still surprised by how self-centred many black men can be. A lot of them will not say these thoughts aloud, but follow this code like it is a commandment in an alternate Book of Negroes. Situations like these will have many black women waking up and unplugging from The Matrix, with the men and women left behind scratching their heads and wondering, “What happened?”Like I said, I do not have the answers on how divested you are or how divested you should be. I do hope that our articles at least inspire you to go where you are celebrated, not tolerated. I will close this article by including Christelyn’s conversation with April Mason, where they remark on their past #swirling and #blacklove experiences respectively, and that lack of protection black women face in the community. And again, I say, just how divested are you?
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